The Apple iPhone has managed to stay at the top of the heap in the smartphones market, despite many contenders snapping at its heels. Unmatched touch-sensitivity of its screen, intuitiveness of its interface and of course, the spectacular success of the app-store have all contributed to the iPhone’s popularity.
The Samsung Galaxy S, which was selected as the ‘European Smartphone of the Year’, was launched in the country a couple of months ago. Has the iPhone finally met its match in this handset from Samsung?
Here’s how the Galaxy S fared in our long-term review.
The handset is barely 9.9 mm thick, thanks to the Super AMOLED display. This technology allows for the touch sensitivity panel in the body to be integrated into the AMOLED panel resulting in a slimmer handset.
The 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, an improved variant of the same display tech’s ‘Plain Jane’ version, enables the screen to be 20 per cent brighter and reduces reflections by almost 80 per cent compared to other displays in the market.
The Galaxy S could pass off as an iPhone from a distance, but it has a couple of hardware buttons that would distinguish it from the former.It has two touch buttons on the fascia and one at the middle to access the Main Menu.
A power button on the right bezel, volume controls on the left and a 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB slot beyond the chrome rim at the top are the only other hardware interfaces in the body.
The screen is made of Gorilla Glass, a scratch- and dust-resistant surface that’s catching on with a lot of OEMs like Motorola (with the DEFY) and Nokia (with the N8). The rest of the body, however, doesn’t look like it can keep off a crack if you accidentally drop it.
The smartphone runs on the Samsung TouchWiz 3.0 user interface, which is a delight to work on.
The interface gives you no less than seven home screens to customise. The home screens look big and bright and have four default icons lined up at the bottom: Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Applications.
Keeping a finger pressed to the home screen gives you options to customise it. You can add Samsung as well as Android widgets to a certain page apart from other shortcuts.
The user interface also lets you create folders and swap wallpapers.
In the contacts section, you have the alphabets displayed to the right of the contacts listed so you can jump to a certain name in your list. It integrates contacts from various accounts that you have and displays it in one view.
Apart from mug shots that you click and add to your contacts’ profiles, the ones on your email or chat clients are automatically detected and displayed in the contacts list. Tap on a mug shot and four icons pop up for you to be able to make a voice call, make a video call, edit the profile or take you to the threaded messages from the contact.
The capacitive touch on the handset is amazingly responsive.
While browsing the internet on the Android browser or choosing options displayed as tiny icons on the screen, the touch response is surprisingly accurate most of the time.
SWYPE in style
The Galaxy S smartphone is one of the very first Androidbased handhelds to feature the super-efficient SWYPE technology. And if more phones were to integrate this, typing as we know it would soon become a thing of the past.
SWYPE lets you type on your handset without you having to even lift a finger, quite literally. Run through the tutorial if you don’t want to try it head-on, and you’re good to go.
To write a certain word, just trace the letters with your finger and SWYPE predicts the word for you. You can then just continue with the next word as SWYPE detects and inserts a space without you having to do it yourself.
Amazingly intuitive and with an easy learning curve, ‘SWYPE’ing really gets addictive after a few trials, even for those who do not take to typing too easily. In fact, SWYPE will possibly help edge out SMS shorthand, now that complete words are so much easier to type.
We played around with a couple of options that come with the 5-megger in the Galaxy S and found the camera to be pretty good. Panorama, Vintage (where the edges of the image are blurred), Add Me (Split screen), Action shot (to capture movement) and Cartoon are some of the options included.
The picture quality was quite good, though noise levels did become a bit annoying in low light conditions. But, with close to 15 options for different lighting conditions, you won’t have a tough time capturing the perfect moment to your satisfaction.
Bundled apps in the Samsung Galaxy S are quite an interesting bunch. You have the Aldiko eBook app to read your favourite books on the handset and it gets displayed on a virtual wooden bookshelf.
You can pinch-and-zoom to adjust the font size and swipe to get to the next page on the app.
For jetsetters, the handset gives you the Daily Briefing app, which keeps you updated on news from around the world (AP Mobile). It also keeps you updated on figures from the stock market (Yahoo! Finance), and offers a schedule planner along with a Weather forecast app.
The Maps on the Galaxy S, once activated, locates your position quite effortlessly. Thanks to Google Maps, the experience was as smooth as it would be on the desktop. It predicts what destination you might want to go to in a drop-down list as you start entering letters for a destination.
Even the directions are laid out well and are simple to follow.
Productivity tools include ThinkFree, which lets you sync your .doc and PDF files among others, and work on them on your handheld.
Last but not the least, the Galaxy S includes an AR (Augmented Reality) app, which sadly still isn’t supported at many locations around the world. This app allows you to browse locations for real-time local information and lets you share it with your friends.
The Samsung Galaxy S runs on the 1GHz Hummingbird processor, the first Samsung phone to do so and according to the company, the fastest one from Samsung’s stable.
The efficient CPU lets you run multiple apps without ever letting you feel as if the handset is slowing down, although there were times when there was a barely detectable lag in opening a certain function or activating some option. The handset comes with a 1,500mAh battery and after one full charge gives you just a little more than a working day with the GPRS on. With neither the GPRS nor the WiFi connected and moderate usage for voice calls, the battery lasted for over an impressive two days.
One of the most appealing and efficient smartphones launched this year, the Galaxy S does not disappoint. With an impressive display and intuitive interface it sure is a good option for those who are looking to invest in a high-end smartphone.